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For varying groups, market frenzy may help or hurt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The turbulence that’s roiling financial markets is punishing stock investors, raising worries for major U.S. companies and will likely produce even punier returns for savers.

Yet some Americans actually stand to benefit from the forces that are driving the frenzied trading. Lower oil prices and sinking interest rates are lowering gas prices, keeping inflation low and cutting mortgage rates to levels that, for some, will scream refinance.

Stocks plunged from the start Wednesday — tumbling more than 400 points at one point — in part over fears that the weakness in Europe and Asia will cause the U.S. economy to grow more slowly than analysts and traders had expected.

A tepid report on U.S. retail sales hurt, too.

Profits of U.S. multinational companies, which have posted record increases for much of this year, would suffer from a prolonged slowdown overseas. That worry began settling over financial markets last month and has intensified since then.

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HBO Go-ing away from cable, will stand on its own

NEW YORK (AP) — Next year HBO is cutting the cord and selling its popular streaming video service HBO Go as a stand-alone product, as more Americans choose to watch the Web, not the TV. Viewers longing to see “Game of Thrones”, “True Detective” and “Veep” will no longer have to pay big bucks for cable and satellite contracts. Is this the end of pay-TV as we know it?

Millions already have cancelled pay-TV subscriptions — up to 10 million U.S. households are currently broadband-only. And about 45 per cent of Americans stream television shows at least once a month, according to research firm eMarketer. That number is expected to increase to 53 per cent or 175 million people by 2018, it says.

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France risks humiliating ‘fail’ in EU budget test

PARIS (AP) — Pencils down, papers over.

France finds itself in the uncomfortable position of a student at the end of exams as it hands in its 2015 budget plans to European Union authorities for review.

Wednesday’s deadline for the bloc’s 28 states to submit their budgets opens up a two-week window during which France and a few other countries who know they’ve missed key deficit targets must wait and hope for leniency, or be forced into a humiliating redo.

It’s a process that risks either embarrassing states like France, Europe’s second-largest economy, or making a mockery of the EU’s new debt rules meant to avoid a repeat of the debt crisis.

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Fresh Ebola fears hit airline stocks

DALLAS (AP) — News that a health worker diagnosed with Ebola flew on a commercial flight raised fear among airline investors that the scare over the virus could cause travellers to avoid flying.

A top federal health official said Wednesday that the health care worker should not have flown on a commercial plane.

Shares of the biggest U.S. airlines tumbled between 2 per cent and 4 per cent in afternoon trading. The overall market slumped on concerns about slowing global economic growth.

Frontier Airlines announced that public-health officials were notifying the 132 passengers on Monday night’s Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth. The airline’s crew reports that the woman showed no symptoms during the flight.

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US retail sales fell in September on autos and gas

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales retreated in September as purchases of autos, gasoline, furniture and clothing slowed, a sign that recent job gains have yet to significantly boost consumer spending.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that seasonally adjusted retail sales dropped 0.3 per cent from the previous month. Sales have risen 4.3 per cent in the past 12 months, slightly below their historical pace.

Auto sales fell 0.8 per cent in September, after revving up 10.4 per cent in August.

Dealers sold cars and trucks at an annual pace of 16.43 million vehicles last month, down from a rate of 17.5 million in August, according to automakers. While auto sales have helped drive economic growth for much of the year, the recent slip was enough to dent overall retail sales in September.

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Budget deficit drops to $483B, lowest since 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The deficit for the just completed 2014 budget year was $483 billion, the lowest of President Barack Obama’s six years in office, the U.S. government reported Wednesday.

It’s the lowest since 2008 and, when measured against the size of the economy, is below the average deficits of the past 40 years. The deficit equaled 2.8 per cent of gross domestic product, which is the economy’s total output of goods and services.

By comparison, the deficit for 2013 was $680 billion, or 4.1 per cent of GDP.

Here’s an easier way to understand why the new numbers are good news: The government borrows 14 cents for every dollar it spends; six years ago, it was 40 cents.

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Fed survey finds moderate growth nationwide

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy was strengthening in most regions of the country in September to early October, helped by gains in consumer spending, manufacturing and commercial construction, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of business conditions.

The Fed report released Wednesday said six of its 12 regions — Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco — reported “moderate” growth. Five others described growth as “modest,” and one — Boston — described activity as mixed.

The report depicted an economy moving ahead steadily but not at a pace that would prompt the Fed to accelerate its timetable for raising interest rates. The survey, known as the Beige Book, is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered with other data when Fed policymakers meet Oct. 28-29.

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Swiss banker describes secrecy in US tax trial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) — They were known as the prized “black accounts,” those held in Swiss banks by wealthy Americans who wanted to make sure their billions of dollars in assets were securely hidden from the U.S. tax agency, a longtime banker testified Wednesday in the trial of a former senior executive at UBS AG.

Hans Schumacher, who also worked at UBS and other Swiss banks, was the first important prosecution witness against Raoul Weil, once the No. 3 executive at UBS. Weil is accused of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government by helping thousands of rich Americans conceal some $20 billion in assets from the IRS between 2002 and 2008.

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Wal-Mart cuts sales outlook amid tough environment

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cut its outlook for revenue growth for the current fiscal year as it confronts a tough global economic environment.

The world’s largest company now expects annual sales to be up 2 to 3 per cent, down from its guidance of 3 per cent to 5 per cent growth that it released a year ago.

The reduced guidance, announced at its annual analysts’ meeting, comes as the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer reduces its capital spending on its physical stores because of its move to halve the store growth of its supercenters. At the same time, it’s increasing its investment in online operations in an effort to pursue customers where they are shopping.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 173.45 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 16,141.74. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 15.21 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 1,862.49. The Nasdaq composite fell 11.85 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4,215.32.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 6 cents to close at $81.78 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 99 cents to close at $83.78 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.1 cents to close at $2.149 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.3 cents to close at $2.459 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.6 cents to close at $3.800 per 1,000 cubic feet.